Ahmedabad, Sep 21: Police on Monday arrested a husband-wife duo who were allegedly involved in orchestrating attacks on Asaram's former aides and several witnesses in rape cases against the self-styled godman, who is now behind bars.
The duo, identified as Basavraj Avanna Talloi, a native of Bijapur in Karnataka and his wife Sejal Prajapati, were held from their residence in Banglore in Karnataka yesterday and brought here this morning by city crime branch.
According to police, both the accused are staunch followers (Sadhak) of Asaram and organised attacks on at least six persons in Gujarat within last two years to silence the voices against Asaram and his son Narayan Sai, who is also in jail in connection with a sexual assault case registered against him in Surat.
"We arrested two key conspirators - Basavraj and Sejal - from Bangalore yesterday. They along with 15 other staunch followers of Asaram have planned and carried out attacks on several witnesses and other anti-Asaram followers in recent past in Gujarat," said city police commissioner Shivanand Jha.
Police said the duo have made a 'hit list' of those whom they wanted to 'eliminate' because they were having an anti-Asaram stand. "Our primary investigation revealed that sharp shooters were hired by these conspirators.
Apart from six cases of Gujarat, we are also trying to find out their role in cases outside the state," said Deputy Commissioner of Police(DCP) -Crime Deepan Bhadran.
Other 15 sadhaks of Asaram who helped the duo to execute the attacks were identified by police as Punit, Pravin Vakil, Shailendra, Arjun Vakil, Kishor Bodke, Atul Narkhede, Gopal Patidar, Chandrashekhar Talloi, Sunil Vankhede, Manoj, Ankit, Laxman Purohit, Rakesh Patel, Sukesh and Tamraj.
All of them are close to Asaram and used to live in different ashrams across India and are yet to be arrested, stated a press release by crime branch.
As part of a conspiracy to 'teach lesson' to witnesses in Asaram's case and help 'Guruji' to come out of jail, all of them formed a group and decided to win sympathy of witnesses by projecting Basavraj and Sejal as victims of Asaram's atrocities.
"After Asaram's arrest, the duo came to Surat and started living in a rented house. Then, they lodged complaints with Surat police claiming that Asaram's followers were giving death threats to them on phone. By doing so, they established themselves as Asaram's detractors and befriended witnesses," said a police release.
After finding out the whereabouts of some witnesses, Basavraj planned and executed attacks on them by hiring sharp shooters, for which, he received funds from other accused through Asaram's ashram, the release said.
Crime branch claims that the duo and 15 others were involved in attacking 6 persons, including witnesses, former sadhaks and a city-based shop owner having land dispute with Asaram.
It is alleged that the duo have organised attacks on husbands of both the Surat-based sisters who have lodged cases of sexual assault against Asaram and Sai, former sadhak Dinesh Bhadchnadani, former Asaram aide Raju Chandak and city-based shop owner Lalo Thakor, who escaped in firing two years back.
Apart from them, police also learned the involvement of the duo as well as the 15 others in killing Asaram's former aide and key witness Amrut Prajapati, who was shot dead in a Rajkot-based clinic a year ago.
Police are also investigating their involvement in various other cases outside Gujarat, including murder of former aide and key witness Akhil Gupta in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, attack on Asaram's former PA Rahul Sachan in Jodhpur and attack on another witness in Panipat in UP, it said.
At least nine witnesses in the cases against Asaram and Sai have been attacked across India. Out of them, three have died in the attacks, including Amrut Prajapati, Akhil Gupta and Kripal Singh. Prajapati, a key witness, once worked as close aide and personal doctor of Asaram at Motera-based ashram.
He was shot dead by unidentified assailants last year at a dispensary in Rajkot. This year, Asaram's former aide and one of the key witnesses Akhil Gupta was shot dead in Muzaffarnagar in UP.
Kripal Singh, another key witness, was shot dead in Shahjahapur in UP during July. In 2013, two Surat-based sisters had come out to speak about their sexual exploitation by Asaram and his son Narayan Sai, after the godman was arrested in the first case of Jodhpur during August 2013.
Surat Police had on October 6, 2013, registered complaints filed by two sisters - one against Asaram and another against his son Narayan Sai - of rape, sexual assault, illegal confinement and other charges.
The complaint against Asaram was transferred to Chandkheda police station in Ahmedabad as the incident took place in that ashram.
The elder of the two sisters, in her complaint, had accused Asaram of sexual assault between 1997 and 2006 during the time she had been living in his Ashram on the outskirts of Ahmedabad city.
The younger sister had filed a complaint against Sai, accusing him of repeated sexual assault between 2002 and 2005 when she was living in their Surat Ashram.